The renewed and expanded emphasis by the Cairns Council and Mayor Val Schier have shown definitively how arts can be used to drive the local economy and get both locals and "arts destination" to drive tourism.
The imprint of the Mayor is now fully on the festival with the number of events increasing dramatically this year. Attendance records are "thru the roof", and CBD restaurant and other traders reported huge increases in turnover during this normally quiet period.
When Hillbilly councillor Margaret Cochrane was questioned about the festival success, she freely admitted that she attended NONE of the events except the fireworks. Pathetic. Where's the leadership from the mayor for vice? And it was the opening parade and fireworks that drew the most complaints by being stupidly scheduled on a Sunday night for the first time, minimising attendance by those with young school-age children. We are assured this idiocy won't occur again.
This underscores why the council needs to get on with the Cultural Precinct as discussed with the community. Not some watered-down version. While the museum and White's Shed component can be staged and delayed, the fully equipped two-theater project must go ahead. While rumours suggest that a staging will delay the second, multipurpose theatre it is in fact this particular component that will be so in-demand by the convention market and Convention Centre. People from around the world will come to Cairns for cultural events. People from around the world will come for international sporting events. They're just not interested in drinking festivals organised for the glory of gambling, and little men riding and beating big giant dogs - the Amateurs.
The current council, handed a bushel of lemons when they took office four years ago, have grown adept in making lemonade. Sure there are troubles in large portions of the Cairns economy - most notably the "big business" side where the greed and stupidity of Tom Hedley, Roy Lavis, and Udo Jattke have left huge scars on the working stiffs. But Val Schier has shown that alternatives for strategic growth can be found.